One of my favorite photographers, Neil Leifer, has a beautiful new WordPress.com-powered site. For the past few years I’ve had this photo in my office:
The story behind it is pretty interesting, taken from this interview with Larry Berman and Chris Maher:
Chris/Larry: It’s actually quite a different question to say what are your favorites verses what do you feel are your best photographs.
Neil: I know, and my best picture ever, in my opinion, is my Ali Cleveland Williams picture that I shot from overhead. I don’t usually hang my own photos, I collect other people’s pictures. But that picture’s been hanging in my living room as long as I can remember. I have a 40×40 print of it which is hung in a diamond shape with Williams at the top. That’s the guy that’s on the canvas on his back.
Chris/Larry: It’s remarkably abstract for a sports picture.
Neil: I think it’s the only picture in my career that there’s nothing I would do different with it. You look at pictures and think that you can always improve them no matter how successful the shoot is. Part of what motivates you to go on to the next shoot is every once in a while you get a picture, whether it’s the cover of the magazine or an inside spread, that’s as good as you think you could have made it. And then a week later you see a couple of things that you could improve slightly. A month later you might see a few more things. It doesn’t diminish the quality of that picture. It simply means that there’s always room for improvement.
Chris/Larry: You’re learning for the future?
Neil: Exactly. It’s sort of what motivates you to go on. If I were to do the Cleveland Williams Ali picture again, I would do it exactly the same. And more important is that no one will ever do it better because it can’t be done like that anymore. Today the ring is different and the fighters dress in multi colored outfits like wrestlers. Back then the champ wore white and the challenger wore black. Today, when you look down at the ring from above, you see the Budweiser Beer logo in the center and around it is the network logo that’s televising the fight. Whether it’s Showtime or HBO, they have their logo two or three times on the canvas. The logo of promoter of the fight, Don King Presents, is also visible. That’s why that picture couldn’t be taken today. So not only did the picture work out better than any I’ve ever taken, but it’s one that’ll never be taken again.
Chris/Larry: Where are you in this picture?
Neil: I’m at 11:00 o’clock, as I remember it. I’m in a blue shirt leaning on the canvas with a camera in each hand.
It’s always an honor to have a great creator make their home on the web with WordPress.